Analysis or news about votes taken on the floor of the House.

Project Vote Smart

Project Vote Smart is a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to informing voters.  They've recently updated their candidate information pages, including lists of what Vote Smart calls "key votes", which are an extremely useful resource.   Randy Kuhl's key votes are here.  Vote Smart also has a "political courage test" which records politicians' positions on key issues.  Kuhl has refused to answer those questions.

Waiting for the Spin on PAA

The House just passed an amendment to the Senate Amendment to the Protect America Act that strips out immunity for telecommunications providers.  Instead, the new provision allows a secure court to review evidence explaining why telecoms provided wiretaps for the government without proper authorization.

The Republicans pulled out the stops, procedural and rhetorical, to pass this bill with immunity intact.  Today, the House had a secret session for the first time in 25 years, where Republicans tried to explain why retroactive immunity is necessary.  Last month, they walked out of the chamber in protest.  Back then, Randy Kuhl posted a blog entry which warned that the expiration of the PAA would have dire consequences for the nation, yet he voted against an extension. Today, President Bush said that the PAA is needed for "our children to be safe from terror."  Bush maintains this line even after repeated audits have shown that the current surveillance powers have been consistently abused by the FBI.

The Senate could still try to strip out immunity, but it sounds like the House has come to a compromise that might work.  Of course, Kuhl voted against it, along with every other Republican in Congress, even though his position a month ago was that we are in dire peril if the PAA isn't passed.  He hasn't posted anything on his blog yet, but I'm eager to hear how this vote kept us safer.

S-CHIP Veto Override Fails Again

Unsurprisingly, Randy Kuhl voted to uphold the veto.  Here's the roll call.

In The News

The Star-Gazette reports that Randy Kuhl is concerned that the Farm Bill hasn't yet gone through the conference committee process, even though the previous bill expired at the end of 2007.   Wonder what happened to that bill?  Well, if you look at the Congressdb summary,  you can see that the bill was passed by the House in July.  After the inevitable cloture vote, the Senate finally passed it in December, almost immediately before adjourning.   So, what Randy is telling us is that we should be upset that the filibuster threats in the Senate have delayed the Farm Bill.  OK, I'm upset.

The Democrat and Chronicle's story on suburban poverty notes that the number of children living in poverty in Rochester's suburbs is on the rise.  One of the school districts mentioned, Wheatland-Chili, is part of the 29th district.  Another, East Rochester, is on the very edge of the district.

Do The Right Thing

Today's news that President Bush will veto the Defense Appropriation Bill is a surprise, but the illogical rhetoric accompanying it is all too familiar.  The administration objects to a provision in the bill that would allow courts to freeze Iraqi assets as part of lawsuits against Iraq.  The Iraqi government opposes this measure because it would expose them to asset freezes related to litigation over Saddam Hussein's bad acts.

Despite being one of those who supported the bill, the most senior Republican on the Armed Services Committee, John Warner, said:

The president is doing the right thing [...] It's in our national security interests, and it's the right thing to try to preserve what I perceive as a strengthening of the relationship between our government and the Iraqi government.
If it was the "right thing" to do this, why didn't Warner do the "right thing" and oppose the bill in committee?  If the President is doing the "right thing", why did Randy Kuhl vote for the bill two weeks ago?


H.Con.Res 215, which was co-sponsored by Randy Kuhl and Dan Boren (D-OK-2), names the first week in June as National CPR and Automated External Defibrillator (AED) Week.  It passed the House yesterday, and the Senate on December 6. 

Also, and completely unrelated, I missed the Massa press conference this morning, so no report on Massa doings this week.

Last-Minute Votes

Since Congress is going away for Thanksgiving, yesterday was a busy day.  Before recessing just before midnight, the House acted on the following:

  • Passed the Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act.  This bill is designed to address some of the issues raised by the recent subprime mortgage meltdown. It tightens up licensing requirements for mortgage brokers, restricts some mortgage types (including those with big balloon payments), and requires more due diligence on borrower repayment ability.
  • Passed a new electronic surveillance bill.  This bill is an attempt to address the issues raised by the use of warrantless wiretapping.  It has provisions to restrict warrantless wiretapping to times when the nation is under a declaration of war, or when an act of Congress authorizes it.  The bill also instructs the President to turn over information about all warrantless wiretaps since 9/11.
  • Failed to override President Bush's veto of the Labor, HHS and Education appropriation bill.
Randy Kuhl voted against the mortgage reform and wiretap reform bills, and against the veto override.  The mortgage reform bill had significant Republican support (64 votes).  The wiretap bill was essentially a party line vote.  The override vote also had a good number of Republicans supporting it (54), through Kuhl's vote against it is consistent with his original vote against the bill.

Tax Relief or Tax Increase?

Randy Kuhl voted against the Temporary Tax Relief Act of 2008, in a party-line vote this afternoon.  Like all tax legislation, this bill is complex.  The Democratic line on the bill is that it rolls back the Alternative Minimum Tax for a year, and finances it by increasing taxes on private equity fund managers and other rich folks.  Representative Kuhl's view is that it is "an egregious tax hike on entrepreneurs and risk-takers who invest and create family-wage jobs."

The independent site Washington Watch, which is run by a member of the Cato Institute, a conservative/libertarian think tank, calculates that the bill will save the average US family $91.50 from their tax bill.  The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis [pdf] says that: 

[...]the bill would treat certain income of partners from performing investment management services (called “carried interest”) as ordinary income for tax purposes, rather than as capital gains, which JCT estimates would increase revenues by $25.6 billion over the 2008-2017 period.
Translation: private equity fund management fees that are being taxed at 15% will soon be taxed at 38%. 

The question is whether private equity funds are "entrepreneurs and risk-takers."  The point of capital gains taxation is to reward those who risk their money in a longer-term investment. Private equity managers have structured their compensation so that it looks like a capital gain in order to get a lower tax rate. I don't think that's the kind of entrepreneurial cleverness the tax code is meant to promote.

Recent Vote Roundup

Randy Kuhl voted for the United States-Peru Trade Promotion Act, a free-trade agreement.  This agreement is interesting because it passed on a split vote in a political climate that is becoming more hostile to open trade.  One of the reasons the bill passed was the inclusion of a provision for more regulation of Peru's timber industry.  According to the Economist magazine (subscription req'd):

Greens say that under the new system, just like the old, much of the timber exported from Peru (officially $200m last year) is cut illegally, with the connivance of the authorities. They have won the support of the Democrats in the American Congress, who insisted on inserting a “timber annexe” in the free-trade agreement with Peru. This gives Peru 18 months to hire more forestry inspectors, set up a stronger forestry regulator and stiffen penalties for illegal logging. It will also allow American officials to halt suspicious shipments at the border, and to visit Peru to see where they come from.

In addition to the notion that free trade "exports jobs", it also is criticized for enabling unsustainable exploitation of natural resources.  If Peru actually enforces the treaty (a big "if" considering their track record), at least the latter criticism might be addressed.

Kuhl voted against the Homeowners Defense Act, which appropriated money to shore up state insurance programs that protect against natural catastrophes.

Kuhl Votes for ENDA

Randy Kuhl was the only Western New York Republican to vote for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.  The bill outlaws discrimination based on sexual orientation.

This vote was a decent act, and probably a political risk.  Kuhl deserves respect for supporting the bill in committee and on the floor of the House.
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